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Hands-on: ASUS ZenBook 14X OLED Space Edition with Intel’s new Alder Lake processor

By Kenny Yeo - 8 Jan 2022

Hands-on: ASUS ZenBook 14X OLED Space Edition with Intel’s new Alder Lake processor

Note: This feature was first published on 6 January 2022.

This is the ASUS ZenBook 14X OLED Space Edition.

A tribute to the P6300

What’s the P6300, you ask. Released in 1997, it was ASUS’ first ever notebook. Shortly after its release, it was chosen to for use on the Mir space station where it spent over 600 days onboard with zero reported issues. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of that event, ASUS decided to introduce the notebook you see here, the ZenBook 14X OLED Space Edition.

 

Design & features

The cover features space-inspired motifs and a tiny customisable OLED display.

Though this notebook is based on the ZenBook 14X OLED which we reviewed earlier, there are quite a number of differences. 

The most obvious being the space-inspired motifs on the chassis and the small digital display on the notebook cover. The chassis is made out of an aluminium alloy and comes in a finish ASUS calls Zero-G Titanium. It’s a unique colour that, to me, seems like a mix of gunmetal titanium and gold. Printed on the cover is also the morse code representation of the popular latin phrase “per aspera ad astra” – which means “our aspirations take us to the stars.”

The small display on the cover is called the ZenVision display. It's 3.5 inches large and is customisable.

The digital display on the cover is called the ZenVision display and it is a 3.5-inch OLED panel that can be used to show system status, a personal message, a fun animation, or just about anything you want. Customisation is done through the MyASUS app which comes with four preset options. Though the display is quite low in resolution – only 256 x 64 pixels – the end effect is that it has the look of 8-bit graphics which many would surely find charming.

As you'd expect, the OLED display is fantastic.

The display is a highlight. It’s identical to the one found in the ZenBook 14X OLED and that means a resolution of 2880 x 1800 pixels, 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 colour space, 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, Pantone validation and VESA DisplayHDR 500 True Black certification. It also has technologies to prevent burn-in. As you’d expect, it looks fantastic. It’s sharp, but more importantly, colours look natural yet vivid and punchy. It’s hard to go back to a regular LCD display after this.

Can you tell which is the microSD card slot?

Ports are identical to the ZenBook 14X OLED so you have two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, a single USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port, a microSD card reader, and a 3.5mm audio combo jack. That’s just about all the ports anyone would need. One thing to note: because there are vents on the sides of the notebook, the microSD card slot can be hard to find.

The keyboard and trackpad are standard ASUS fare, which is to say good. There are two interesting things to note. The power button doubles up as a fingerprint scanner, and the space bar features the logo of a planet. Like most ASUS notebooks, on the right of the keyboard is an additional column of navigational keys. The trackpad is large, smooth, responsive, and features a virtual number pad.

 

Specs

The other highlight of the notebook is something you can’t see. Inside the ZenBook 14X OLED Space Edition is Intel’s newest Alder Lake mobile processor. We’ve written about it in greater detail here so you might want to check that out first. But the long and short of it is that these processors feature Intel's big-core + little-core implementation – something that Arm processors have had great success with. So like Arm processors, Intel’s Alder Lake processors have performance cores and efficient cores.

Inside this particular pre-production unit that I received is the Core i7-12700H, which is the mid-range H-series offering. The H-series is Intel’s enthusiast-class mobile processor with a base TDP of 45W that can be ramped up to as high as 115W. The fact that they can fit it into an ultraportable notebook that is about 16mm thick is pretty amazing.

The Core i7-12700H has 14 cores split between 6 performance cores and 8 efficiency cores. Counting in Hyper-threading technology on the performance cores, in total, this processor can crunch up to 20 threads simultaneously. Because this unit isn’t retail-ready, I was told its performance would not be indicative of final production units. That said, I did run some benchmarks and the numbers were encouraging. More encouraging, however, is how the notebook feels. It feels markedly more responsive and fluid than any prior Intel-based notebook that I’ve used and that's a good sign that the latest 12th Gen Core processors are pulling their weight. I’m sure the fact that this notebook has 32GB of memory helps as well, but I think we are off to a good start. 

 

Closing thoughts

The customisable display on the cover is fun and the notebook, as a whole, is likeable and charming.

Based on first impressions, the ZenBook 14X OLED Space Edition is a delightful and desirable notebook. Of course, the classic space-inspired design elements help – after all, who can resist that funky customisable display on the cover? But perhaps more crucially, Intel’s new Alder Lake processor seems to make a big difference in terms of usability. I’m sure performance will be measurably better but what stood out was just how much more responsive this notebook is to use.

Sadly, there’s no word yet on pricing and availability, but we’ll update this article when we know more.

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